Monday, 28 September 2009

Monday poem – take it to the top, Ted

Can you believe this is the fifth Monday poem in a row? Anyway, this week's task was to read two Ted Hughes poems and then write something (both the poems and the instructions are over at our friendly leader, TFE's, blog). It was another interesting idea so I read the two poems and got to work. Of the Hughes poems I had read 'The Thought-Fox' before but had never been particularly keen on it (or at least not as keen as everyone else...maybe something to do with Fox being my name...that can change your relationship to a word). 'The Horses' though - that appealed to me much I read it a few more times and let my mind gallop about with it for a while. All that talk in both poems of being up and awake when other people aren't around perhaps inevitably brought me right back to Raveworld (where I lived more or less completely from 1989-1997). It was very much a life lived at night and a few years back I wrote about this period a lot (often with a negative slant). Now more time has passed I feel a lot better disposed to it all than I did - I can even remember some of the joy and exhilaration...and hence some of the reasons we all got into it in the first place.

Some of the references in the following poem won't mean much to you if you missed the house music/nightclub/rave explosion of that time (for example Americans Masters at Work are dance music producers/DJs/remixers and British band Brothers in Rhythm had a couple of big cheesey records called things like 'Peace and Harmony') but we all drop our own nonsense into poems and that's part of what keeps it all interesting. I suppose in places you might think this poem is in bad taste...but it's really not meant to be (I see it more as a kind of celebration). In particular I didn't mean to bring Sylvia Plath into it (I really didn't – it's like the worst of crimes!) but I'm afraid in she came ( she's never been away). You must remember though that although I mention poets who were once real living people this poem is really not about them as's more about their myths (and lots of other things too). It's the freest free verse I've written in a while...but I guess that goes with the subject matter (generally I find form and content do find each other quite naturally). I apologise for the swear words and drug references (neither big nor clever) but I'm afraid, once again, it was very much part of it all and keeping it clean and tidy would not have been right at all. But enough intro, here it is (audio version here too):

Set text fever

Night time is the right time
The time to change direction
The time to shake your measly body
Like you've never shaken anything before


And honey, I don't care who you are
How important, how seminal
When the night call comes
You will respond
You will leave your daytime
(Don't you know who I am?)
Bullshit at home
Put on the most ridiculous outfit
Cram yourself in with the masses
Sweat like a bastard
And lose yourself
Yes, you will lose yourself
In the dark

Take old Phil Larkin over there
He is going for it big time
He has finally removed that damn suit and tie
Taken off those infernal glasses
And look
He has set himself free
Free, free, freer than free
It's beautiful to watch really
He is grooving, totally grooving
I think he might even be
Communicating with the bottom of his soul
And whilst you wouldn't normally have him down
As a guy for leather shorts and nipple rings
People can surprise you
And there he is now
Reaching for the higher plane
Finding his happy place
Dancing on a podium
With poppers up his nose

And check Sylvia (the sweetheart)
She is smiling like you've never seen her
One ecstasy tab short of a hospital visit
She's right out there, flying
I bumped into her just now in the toilet
And she grabbed my bare arm tight and said
'This is so extreme
I don't think I can get any higher'
And I just hugged her
We all did
We told her that we loved her
That we always will, whatever
And that she should rave to the grave, baby
Rave to the grave

But it's hard for her because just look at Ted go
He is the king of the jungle
The ruler of the beasts
The man to end all men
No DJ can get near him
With that huge frame
That thick mane
He is the Master at Work
The Brother in Rhythm
Standing in the middle of the dancefloor
Barechested and vibrating
With his arms outstretched
His fingers pointing at something somewhere
That none of us can see
And he is howling
Full and hard like a wild creature
(You can't hear him for the music
But somehow we all feel it)
He is howling like a wolf
That wants to eat and live
High on life
Starlight barking
He is howling
At the moon
At the earth
At the night

RF 2009

So you see...another very different poem this week. I suppose there is a gentle 'deathly serious one week/bit more light-hearted the next' rhythm to my output but that's about all I can see in terms of regularity. If you want to read my other Monday poems so far here are the links:

Week 1 (and please remember this one was written in five minutes...that was the task).
Week 2
Week 3
Week 4

Everyone else's Monday poems to date can all be found via Totalfeckineejit's blog. He's like a one man PoetrySocietyAcademy (or something). And he's no eejit.



Niamh B said...

Wow Rachel, This is just fantastic. Love it

Rachel Fox said...

Thanks Niamh. I suspect it might be a 'love it or hate it' kind of a piece...

I had to change a line to fit it in this size column (which I hate doing!) so it might not look exactly like this another time...but it will be pretty close.

I have this weird thing where sometimes when people are talking or writing about poetry I ask myself 'what would Larkin say/do?' (and the answer is usually 'shout "bollocks!"'). This time I went one step further. I kind of like him in leather.


Titus said...

Oh, this is a Tony the Tiger poem.
I like the side-shift you've taken, the jarring of the imagination - oh, just all of it. I laughed, and I can see it!

Rachel Fenton said...

Well I love it! Although I wasn't part of the scene you describe I lived through it at the right age to know people who were part of it and I love how you've brought our dead poets back to life - and put some enjoyment (?) in their virtual lives ;) I reckon Plath would have been your biggest fan!

Rachel Fox said...

T - yes, I can see it too...quite regularly! The imagination can be so independent...

Rachel - Plath is a poet I kept away from largely (until some fellow bloggers kept nudging me towards her). It was just too close really I think (what with the suicide and all...and my family background) but here she is - popping in when she really shouldn't!


Jim Murdoch said...

Wonderful irreverent imagery. I will never think of Philip Larkin the same ever again. Thank you very much!

Rachel Fox said...

Thanks, Jim. Much appreciated.

swiss said...

this made me laugh, esp philip larkin. all too frighteningly familiar. spot on!

Rachel Fox said...

Thanks Swiss. Reading the Andrew Motion biography of Larkin left a lot of impressions of PL in my head. All that sitting around and festering and listening to jazz records that he made me want to get him out there...on a dancefloor...doing something more physical!

Liz said...

Rachel, fantastic, what a about exhilarating - never was into the rave scene but this piece took me there (even if still bed-bound and flu-feverish ; ))

Rachel Fox said...

Thanks Liz. Feverish is probably the best way to read this!

It's so long ago and I'm such a suburban-country unmarried-housewife these days that it does feel a bit like someone else was in all those clubs and at all those parties and at all those after hours session! Still, it's all material, eh?


hope said...

I guess the leather shorts has now been seared into my brain. :)

I like this one because it is so visual. You're very good at what you do. :)

[Pssst, I left you five words back on my playground].

hope said...


Never type early in the morning when you're on vacation. Even on vacation the grammar police yell at me. :)

Rachel Fox said...

Yes, sorry about the shorts. One of the clubs I worked in was a very leather shorts type of establishment. I even wore a pair of sequinned shorts myself...on more than one occasion! In fact my DJ partner and I both had pairs (we bought them in London...for a laugh...). I kept the shorts as a memento - because they are so ridiculous. Our girl wants me to wear them now but I say 'no, no and no!'

What huge words you left me! It may take me a few weeks to get to that meme but I will try to do it.


P Nolan said...

Great stuff. And great craic too!

Like Hope, I think that image of Larkin in leather shorts and nipple rings will live with me forever.

Coincidentally, I watched the Clubbing episode of Spaced over the weekend - that makes a couple of funny blasts from a foggy, smiley past. Nice one.

Rachel Fox said...

Thanks P. Now I feel a bit unsure about doing this to poor old Phil..and I'm such a big fan of his too. Luckily he has no children to be offended by this poem...none that I know of anyway.

The Weaver of Grass said...

My goodness me, Rachel - he has certainly inspired you to put pen to paper. Fantastic stuff. Wonder what next week will bring!

Rachel Fox said...

You not playing today Weaver?

Red Bird said...

Exhilarating is a good word for this! I just love how it took me right there, meeting up with all these fabulous people. And I did love the whole Sylvia stanza- kind of broke my heart at the same time I was saying, Go, Sylvia go!
Bravo, Rachel- a wonderful poem!

Jeanne Iris said...

Wonderful, Rachel! I think I've been in one of those restrooms (toilets) before, too! "God bless us, everyone!"

Rachel Fox said...

Thanks RB. Bravo is a lovely sound! Or sight in this case I suppose...

And Jeanne...yes, at times they were the centre of the universe. Or is felt that way.

Glad you're all liking this. I was a bit unsure about how it would be received!


the watercats said...

nasty poem!.. (in the good way).. love the raw, traumatic lfinging about of words and ideas.. great stuff!

Totalfeckineejit said...

Given the choice, I always choose to listen and this was absolutely fantastic,(and Okay I don't Know nearly all your poetry at all but)this is my favourite of yours by a country mile.Will listen to again and again.

Domestic Oub said...

Brilliant poem - loved it!

Rachel Fox said...

Hey these comments make me feel like dancing!

Thanks Cats and DO. As for you TFE...I did consider rerecording the sound on this because there's a gulp at one point plus I didn't quite the emphasis right in one bit...but then I quite like recordings a bit real (and not too polished) so I thought I'd go with the first take.

Glad you like it.


Rachel Fox said...

And my typing's all to pot today too. Missed a word there. Been working on another poem today (in between making tea and all that) and I think my eyes are tired!

Dominic Rivron said...

Brilliant - especially the Larkin stanza!

Rachel Fox said...

I've read much more by and about Larkin than the other two. Maybe it shows.

Argent said...

A gorgeously original take on people whom we tend to think are stuffed shirts.

Anonymous said...

Ah Foxy - well I WAS there, somewhere by your side, in the spangly shorts... or in the toilet with Sylvia or Suzie sometimes both.
I think you should read this over the top of 'The King of the Beats' and it would mix really well especially with those luvverly bass breaks, remember?
Big Up the Poetry Massive! x

Rachel Fox said...

Argent - hello and thank-you. Yes these 3 poets were all born in the 1920s or 30s and so a generation or so above me. I guess that's one reason they seem to fit together. Strangely the generation above them...Auden, Dylan Thomas, DH Lawrence...the idea of them raving wouldn't be surprising at all. As for Robert Burns and Byron...well, they could outparty any of us!

As for you anon...still got the sequinned shorts? I might wear mine for Halloween. That'll keep the evil spirits away!


Don't Feed The Pixies said...

Rachel Fox

Thank you for visiting today

Thank you for making me smile with your comment at a moment that i needed it most

You may never know...


Rachel Fox said...

You're very welcome.


Wow! I especially like the Plath stanza, Rachel.

Sandra Leigh said...

My favourite lines -

Barechested and vibrating
With his arms outstretched

Oh, yeah.

I have no audio here, so I'll have to wait until I'm at home to listen. I look forward to that.

Rachel Fox said...

Thanks Susan and Sandra. All these comments much appreciated.

smith3000 said...

Love it Foxy.

I remember much scarier sights than Larkin in lederhosen so thanks for going easy on our delicate sensibilities ..


Rachel Fox said...

I thought you'd like it, Smithy. Almost emailed you but thought you might be too busy with hard news for such fripperies!
Have you seen I got one of your old jokes into a poem just posted today (1 Oct - the one about tea). My head is full of other people's old jokes!

smith3000 said...

Totally missed that reference. Duh. Can't really claim it as my own really - just repeated it endlessly.

I like your stuff Foxy. Often it's very obvious that you had a good time writing it. And I'm glad your feeling a little more well disposed to our rave days - I wouldn't have missed it for anything.


McGuire said...

Quality. You really are on fire. I've been reading Hughes again a wee bit. Brithday Letters. Started researching that pair again/ This was a very light take on their otherwise stifling and prison like relationship.

Enjoyed this, even Larkin, but Christ! seeing him in Learger and nipple rings would be a terror. Seeing most people in that would be.

keep up the good pen.

Rachel Fox said...

Smithy - no, I know what you mean. It was a great time. Some very high highs.

Thanks McGuire. It was weird this week too because Bloodaxe publishers (on their facebook thing) had a poem by Hughes and Plath's daughter Frieda Hughes about her mother and the film that was made about Sylvia Plath. The poem is 'My Mother' (it's not new) and the film was 'Sylvia' (2003). Let's just say that FH's poem is not very happy about the film project! I read the poem (which is very raw and angry) and did wonder (as I did before posting my poem this time) what FH would think of me having both her Mum and Dad in a nightclub going mental! Not that that would stop me writing anything in one way but then, at the same time, having lost my own father early and in similar circumstances it does mean that I do consider her position more than some people might. I can't say I liked her 'My Mother' poem much but then it's not a poem written to make's written out of a huge emotion...a lifetime of emotion...and I can understand that at least. Yes, her story has been very public but I do know something of it...a little something. I'm very glad that all of you seem to have taken the poem in the spirit that it was is a celebration of these great writers...just moving them into a different era and setting. I met a lot of people in clubs and who had been uptight (like Larkin) and who went wild when the rave era came along. I also met a lot of very sad people who found some release and happiness for a while in the drugs (even if the sadness came back tenfold when the drugs wore off). I also met people (usually men) who had the kind of animal reaction in clubs that certainly brings to mind Ted Hughes' poems (if not the man himself)...and so for me all these things fitted together and it does seem that poem (for all of you at least) does work. As for the my experience they work in moderation...but sadly the rave era wasn't really about that virtue!


chiccoreal said...

Dear Rachel: Great take on Ted Hughes whom I shall google immediately. Oh I should know this man after my own heart! I love the raw-ness the characterization of the patrons, the somewhat superficial or rather artificial conditions of the club and the atmosphere it creates and or conveys about life. Most astute observations and after i read poetry by Ted Hughes, I will probably have a much better understanding of your poem. I love your accent! You give much dramatic flair to your reading! Could listen to your poems forever; they are that excellent! To be a fly on that wall in that pub, then. I missed the Rave era! I had babies in diapers which just doesnt work with the club scene too well. Looking back now, I did have the 80's punk scene to thank for my "get down" downfall!

Rachel Fox said...

Thanks for the comment here. Glad you enjoyed the ride and good luck with ol' Ted.